Cycling-Don't rule out Voeckler, warns Armstrong

Reuters

Sat, 16 Jul 18:59:00 2011

Very few expected Thomas Voeckler to retain the overall leader's yellow jersey after two mountain stages but now even Lance Armstrong believes the Frenchman can go on to win the Tour de France.

Europcar rider Voeckler, the 2010 French champion, took the lead last Sunday in St Flour and was expected to surrender the coveted jersey in Thursday's mountain top finish in Luz Ardiden.

But he hung on with the big guns and repeated that feat on Saturday in the 14th stage after a 15.8-km ascent at an average gradient of 7.9 per cent.

Seven-times champion Armstrong, who is expected to visit his former Radioshack team on the Tour next week, wrote on his Twitter feed: "If Voeckler makes it to the top w/ the leaders today then we have to say he can win the TdF.

"He's got 2 mins and they can't shake him."

Voeckler, 32, leads the overall standings with a 1:49-advantage over Luxembourg's Frank Schleck. The Tour should be decided in two gruelling Alpine stages and an individual time trial next week.

"I am not surprised by Voeckler. He is a great champion. He's been great this season. I was not expecting less from him," said Schleck.

Voeckler, who turned professional in 2001, also wore the yellow jersey in 2004, retaining it for a handful of seconds against Armstrong at the Plateau de Beille before surrendering in the Alps.

The Frenchman noticed things had changed since that time.

"On today's form, I would not have been able to follow Armstrong or Basso in 2004," he told a news conference.

"Even if it's hard to compare, I think that things have been improving in cycling since I turned professional."

 

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